Category Archives: Archived 5-2014

In The Field


I have visited our land several times but because there is nothing there yet I had not done much exploring. Now that we have the culvert put in and have been camping I have begun to walk the grounds. The altitude is around 10600′ and there are several Bristlecone pines. I have also noticed that there are several Aspen trees in the area that are growing in a strange way. Instead of growing straight up the trunk seems to bend and twist in some of the same ways the Bristlecone are. I believe it may be because of the wind in the area. AspenThis isn’t the best example but it shows an Aspen and Bristlecone in the background.

As I walked deeper into the forest I found some really cool Engelmann Spruce.

IMG_0424 IMG_0423 IMG_0421 IMG_0425 IMG_0426 IMG_0445 I was able to bring 2 of them home. Both were growing side by side in a mass of needles and rotted out wood. They may have been branches that took root from a fallen tree some years ago. Such awesome trees! IMG_0446





I often find myself confused with “the rules” of bonsai.

I know that there are a set of standards that are good to follow and sometimes rules should be broken. I think the part that is most puzzling is when people say things like branches growing straight up, straight down, or crossing branches must be remove because they do not imitate what happens in nature. When I hear this I have to wonder how much time these people spend in nature…Seriously, in nature there are no rules! So often when we see the bonsai rules of man broken by none other than Mother Nature herself, we see some amazing things.

Ok, now that I have said that let me back peddle a bit. I know the rules are set in place to create mans version of “the flawless tree”, ok, well then, let’s say just that, and leave mother nature out of it.

IMG_0733 IMG_0734                                         Sometimes the best way to admire a tree is from underneath.


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Years of nebari cut back so not to intude on the sidewalk.
Years of nebari cut back so not to intude on the sidewalk.



Last year the Rocky Mountain Bonsai Society provided a workshop for beginners. This was a good chance for me to get hands on experience from the experienced. There was a table of pre potted paracanthia for us to choose from. I happily grabed a tree with good shape and a decent trunk.

I had the pleasure of working with Patrick Allen (President of RMBS at the time) and Walter Buck (2011 RMBS Artist-of-the-Year not to mention one of his trees in Best of BCI 50TH Anniversary Photo Album0 from the Society. With all this brass in the room I was sure to learn a thing or two.

We began snipping and wiring and had a great time. Walter and Patrick were very helpful!

IMG_0266 Unfortunatly, I do not have a picture of it last year after it was finished but this picture is from this spring as it was leafing out.

I am a little concerned however, I have not had one single flower shoot on this tree yet. I am going to test the soil to make sure the is a good ballance of nutrients. This could be one of several reasons for no flowers. We had also had a severe freeze during the winter and my greenhouse heater couldn’t keep up. I will continue to update this post as we progress through the year.

Ponderosa Yamadori.

Collected in April, 2014.

I was driving down the road minding my own business when I saw this amazing  ponderosa sticking out of a crack in the rock. This was picture perfect!

Imagine what it took for this tree to grow here…

Ponderosa Pine

The only tool I ended up using for this tree was a flat head screwdriver. I cleared the dirt away from the cracks and found 2 main roots, one heading up the vertical crack and one headed straight down. The root headed upward was loose enough in the crack for me to wiggle it up and out of the crack. The lower root wouldn’t give up. I kept clearing dirt and wiggling. Before long the tree was free.

I wrapped the roots in burlap and soaked everything down.

When I got home I didn’t have anything to accommodate this tree. The entire tree is horizontal and will definitely need some sort of a crescent pot someday. I whipped up an idea and began to construct a box. The box allowed me to keep the tree in it’s natural position.

Custom box I would insurt the roots into the oval hole, then I could fill dirt under and around the root structure.

IMG_0181 Once this was done I placed a piece of wood accross the the trunk and nailed it into place. That way it would hold the tree from bobbing around and from falling forward out of the hole. I also put a piece of wood over the hole and closed the hole off with screen material. Filled the rest of the box with pumice.

IMG_0352 I covered the top with a piece of plywood. The tree is doing well and I am looking forward to seeing it’s progress.


Procumbens Nana Juniper

I am sure you have all seen the videos. Pick up a nursery stock tree and poof, instant bonsai. It’s harder than the professionals make it look, at least for me it is.

After watching several of the pro’s do it I figured I would give it yet another try. I ran out to the local nursery and purchaced 2 Procumbens nanas.

Procumbens nana Procumbens nana


I am going to plant one of these in the garden to grow and thicken up. I want to make a semi- cascade or a full cascade with the planted one. I will allow it to grow a season or two in the ground. Once it is vigorus I will begin to style it leaving it in the ground to recover and thicken quicker.

Procumbens nana

With the second one I have pruned wired and shaped it. After a few months I did go ahead and repot it. I may have pushed it a bit to far however, only time will tell.

Wired and pruned-

Procumbens nana I am excited to watch these grow. I will update throughout the summer.

I have been told  be several people the best way to practice is to buy several junipers and practice several different techniques. Then, set them aside and let em grow. Watch how they grow, learn from your mistakes. Next season or in a few years your tree will be ready again. The way they recover may surprise you and you may have some great material.

7-1-2014 Procumbins Nana update

It’s been a rocky road with these two. The one I planted in the garden to grow down the wall was going to be slowly styled as it sat. I began to notice a decline in the junipers health. It was browning and the growing tips turned pail. We have only been in our new home for a short time and I had no idea that the sprinkler system was blasting it every morning. I dug up the juniper and placed it in a large pot with well draining soil. This went into mostly shade for a week. I held my breath, the tree had now been transplanted twice and almost drowned to death.

Procumbens nanaBefore the drowning.


IMG_0882Placed in partial shade.

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After a few weeks I am moving the juniper back into the sun. I looks bad I know, but if you look close there are several growing tips again. I will continue to monitor and make sure this patient has a full recovery.

The other Procumbens I decided to style right away. If you remember how this post started I was supposed to take nursery stock trees and try to do like the pros, ya know, poof instant bonsai…

Thats why they are the pro’s. So, back to the one I styled…

It turned out, ok… IMG_0252

Now to see where it “grows” from here. Dadunt tshh. Well that was May and come July most of the branching died. What happened? I styled and repotted all at the same time. I know, I know, 1 insult per year. Hey, let me make these mistakes and post them so you don’t have to. 🙂 Now, with this slight setback lets see where we are with this guy in July.

IMG_0885 IMG_0886 IMG_0887It’s recovering nicely. I’ll let it grow out this year and do some deadwood work in the winter. Nature has decided that this is what I will work with.

Both of these junipers were tested with my ignorance. Both will survive and both will be become a good learning situation. So much for poof. 🙂


In the Field.


Almost nothing is better than a day off. A day to spend doing whatever it is that you want to do while knowing everyone else is at work. Ahh, yeah, I hope they get some of my “to do’s” done.

My wife and I will be headed up to Jefferson C.O. for the day. I will also be doing some scouting.


Stay tuned!


Day off in Jefferson and Fairplay C.O.

It was that wierd temperature you get at higher elevations where the sun is hot but the wind is chilly. After just 20 min you could tell that your neck was already burning. It was so nice though.

IMG_3010 IMG_3011 IMG_3012 IMG_3014There was moss everywhere! I was at this spot a few weeks ago and it was covered in snow. There were some snow drifts up to 18″. Today, all of the snow was gone except for the high peaks.

This looks like a nice Bristlecone, hmmm.

We went back to the truck and got some tools.

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Within 10-15 min the tree was out of the rock wraped and back to the truck with minimal trouble. IMG_3018

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Wife decided to take advantage of the down time and awesome views. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

IMG_3021 IMG_3022 IMG_3023This is a gnarly twisted up old Bristlecone. Awesome!

IMG_3025 IMG_3026 IMG_3027 IMG_3028The Bristlecone was eased into a spot in the garden with 1/2 the dirt from the original site. This will be it’s place of rest for quite some time.




Chinese Elm

Last year my wonderful wife and kids bought me a training session with local Master Hal Sasaki for fathers day.

Chinese Elm upright

During the class we were given a choice between a tiger bark ficus or a Chinese elm. I didn’t care I was just happy to be surrounded by trees and an instructor to guide me. I ended up with a Chinese elm as was happy to have it.

During the class we went through watering, feeding and re potting. We also discussed angles. Angles are important because you can change the appearance of a tree completely by changing the way it is potted. You also want to stay away from creating right angles or flat lines. Of course this is just a suggestion and your tree is supposed to be whatever you want it to be!

We had a good time in the class re potting at different angles, pruning and re potting.

During the winter I kept this tree in the green house. Allowing it to get as cold as 35 degrees f. It did take some time but eventualy it did lost its leaves and went into dormancy. I was excited in the spring to see that it was pushing buds. Then before you know it exploded with new growth.

I was so happy to work on this tree but now I am thinking about doing something else with it. I don’t care much for the S shape that is given to so many of these trees. I think I will try to pot it into a semi cascade. Hey, if it doesnt work I can always change it back. Besides this is what this blog and bonsai is about, trial and error.

Yep, I did it. Semi cascade. It doesn’t look very impressive but I hope after a year of growing I can begin to form the pads downward.

Well see how it turns out throughout the summer.

  Chinese elm cascade

Collected Juniper

Boy do I have a funny storry to tell- So I was sent a craigslist add regaeding an old juniper that was free if you dig it up. Hmmm, ok, I responded to the add and was told someone was already interested. A few days later I received an email stating the tree was mine if I wanted because the other folks never came. The owners were going to cut it down if I didn’t come. Ok, now I feel like it was my duty as a bonsai student to try to save this tree. I asked them how big it was and how old they thought it was. They told me the tree had been there (they thought) since 1959. Oh, yea, and it was about 4′ tall.
Large collected juniperI arrived at the home only to find a 6′ tree. Hmm, ok, well the tree has charector and I may be able to shorten it by cutting away the deadwood and curling the live vein down. So I dug, and dug, and wiggled, and dug, and yep you guessed it dug some more. The tree was much bigger than expeted for sure. At this point I was dead tired. I brought the tree home and sawed off what dead roots there were. I realy hope this juniper lives! Not many roots left as you can tell from the pot. POP CAN NORMAL SIZE!
I brought the tree home and the box I had pre built wasnt even close. There were very few roots on this juniper. It was mostly a giant nub on the bottom with a few roots. All I could put it in was this pot. The pot is actually rather large however, it is dwarfed by the size of the tree. Since there are very few roots it should be fine for now. I planted the tree in 100% pumice. I folier feed this tree along with all of my other trees. This is something I learned from Jerry Morris.
Large Jumiper pushing growth Fortunatley the large juniper I just collected is pushing new growth. This is a good sign. I am not in the clear by any means but at least the juniper is moving forward.
Here are a few more pictures-
Yamadori Juniper IMG_0314 IMG_0315 IMG_0316 IMG_0317 IMG_0318